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COVID-19: Virgin Australia CEO wishes Australians dead

COVID-19: Virgin Australia CEO wishes Australians dead

OK – yes that headline is sensational, but that is the implication of Jayne Hrdlicka’s reported comments to a Queensland University of Technology business lunch on Monday regarding re-opening Australia’s international borders. Comments that included:

“…some people may die”

Jayne Hrdlicka CEO Virgin Austraia

PR staff put in an all-nighter

Oh dear, Jayne. I pity all the PR people at Virgin Australia who have had to work out how to spin this Trumpian economic line. It goes with the ‘It’s just like the flu.’ approach to the worst pandemic in a hundred years that has so far killed 3,403,206 people to date, with over 164,244,556 recorded infections. Let’s also remember that about one in ten of those gets ‘long COVID’ with symptoms extending for a year or more according to Harvard Health.

And this from a CEO of an airline that doesn’t even fly internationally at the moment.

“It will make us sick but won’t put us into hospital … some people may die, but it will be way smaller than with the flu.

Some of her words get more hateful, and more ‘money making before people’ thatn those quoted above. The best coverage of the speech I have seen is in The Guardian.

This Tweet from Bill Bowtell – best known for his pioneering work on the AIDS policy response – sums up the practicalities of Hrdlicka’s words.

Health first

Having said all of that, Australia does need a pathway out of the pandemic, which does involve vaccination and opening borders. However, that should be health-driven and not economy-driven. Look at where we are now because of fighting the virus first and supporting the economy.

Look at what has happened in countries that have tried to save the economy first. There are many examples, but perhaps Brazil is the most egregious. Over 15 million infections and nearly half a million deaths with an economy down the drain.

We know from our experience to date that the economy won’t recover until the virus is dealt with. Combat the virus first and the economy will follow. If people fear getting sick, they won’t spend.

We need a plan

So back to our politicians, Scotty from marketing (our prime minister) and Greg Hunt, the minister for health need to get it together and formulate an actual and public plan tracing the pathway out of the pandemic. We know it will all be subject to change, and unforeseen circumstances, but a bit of a roadmap would build confidence back for everyone, people, business and government. Silly me, I though that was what leadership was about.

For the Virgin Australia official response head here.

New Virgin Lounge, Adelaide

2PAXfly Takeout

I am pretty much front of the queue to get on a plane for some international travel. But at the moment, I am absolutely OK with Australia’s closed borders. Sure, I will be heading to NZ in July, but that is a reasoned, planned and well executed bubble (so far).

The Australian government needs to develop the same sort of measured, planned, and flexible response to opening its international borders, in line with the protection of its population from the virus, and the management of quarantine and hospitalisation for those who have the virus.

That’s the role of government and leadership. So while Jayne and I might be coming from different perspectives, we agree that we need a plan for re-opening. I just don’t think that plan should include allowing the virus to run rampant and kill and maim people.

Oh, and by the way, Alan Joyce of Qantas is calling for pretty much the same thing as Jayne is. He just avoided that phrase “…some people may die”. He obviously took the compulsory corporate online PR seminar more seriously than Jayne did.

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